Belarus is a low-lying country, landlocked between five other European countries. Belarus owes its relatively flat terrain and numerous lakes to glacial scouring that occurred during the last ice age. Its highest point, Dzyarzhynskaya Hara, 346 m, is found in the sloping hills in the uplands of the north. From there the terrain descends to the Polesia lowland and the swampy Pripyat Marshes. Belarus may not have beaches or shore, but it boasts numerous rivers, lakes, marshes and wetlands. In the north, the largest lake in the country at 80 sq km is Lake Narach, one of roughly 11,000, according to some counts. Forests also cover large tracts of land; in particular, the Bialowieza Forest stretching across the far west of Belarus and extending into Poland is one of the last examples of the primeval forest that once covered the plains of Europe.
Belarus acceded to the Bern Convention in 2013, in particular thanks to its long-term cooperation with the Council of Europe on the setting-up of the Emerald Network. Among the flora and fauna species of European importance in Belarus counts the Bison bonasus, the European bison, which makes its home in the ancient forests. There are many bird species that make their home or migrate through the marshlands such as the black stork, Ciconia nigra, also threatened. Plants are of course represented, too, with the memorable Aldrovanda vesiculosa, known as waterwheel plant, a carnivorous aquatic plant. These and other species are found in the 26 habitats of European importance that are listed as present in Belarus and in need for site protection in the frame of the Emerald Network.
119 sites have been identified as suitable to join the Emerald Network in the country (by February 2016), 16 of which have already been officially nominated as candidate Emerald sites by the Standing Committee to the Bern Convention in December 2015.
The 119 potential Emerald sites cover 21350.04 km2, 10.26% of the country territory.